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Catcher in the Rye

The dilemma posed by Holden Caulfield in J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye is as timely today as it was in 1950s America. Holden is an adolescent who recognizes the phony nature of adult life and the dubious nature of the American Dream that prevailed in 1950s culture. Alienated, incapable of staying in boarding school and surrounded by what he views as superficiality in materialistic and humanistic aspects of New York culture. Holden Caulfield lives in a depressing and cynical world which he would like to rebel against, but the world is so superficial and cynical that until he truly transgresses the social norms of that cynical world he cannot see much point in rebelling against its overwhelming and institutionalized forces.

Culture in 1950s America pitted the Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver mentality of suburban America against a backdrop of increasing racial tension, the growth of psychoanalysis, the threat of nuclear war, the Korean War, the Communist paranoia spearheaded by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunts, rising prosperity and consumerism (materialism) and the House Un-American Activities Commission (HUAC) and the Federal Loyalty Boards. It is such a culture in which Holden exists. Holden has just been expelled from his fourth boarding school when his journey begins. He goes to New York, his hometown, and attempts to rekindle a series of past relationships. Eventual


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Catcher in the Rye. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 02:04, July 05, 2015, from